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Paint 101

Posted in How To on July 1, 1999
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Photographers: emap usa Archives
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In the big and bumpy world of four-wheeling, stuff gets abused. Many of us treat our vehicles worse than we would a rented Pinto. Axles snap, motors blow, tires deflate involuntarily, transfer cases lose their guts, and transmissions fry.

One of the most abused items on our rigs is the paint. Smashed against rocks, dragged through brush, plastered with mud: Four-wheeling does no favors for a paint job. Whereas a vehicle's drivetrain and suspension can be beefed up to take a beating off road, very little can be done to strengthen the paint. This means fresh paint will be required from time to time if you hope to keep your 4x4 looking sharp.

For most of us, painting a truck is uncharted territory. We may know someone who has painted theirs, but few of us have ever painted a vehicle ourselves. That's why many of us prefer to leave it up to the professionals. The only downside to this approach is the cost: Getting a vehicle painted by a professional paint shop is expensive, and when you add any necessary bodywork, things can get even pricier.

Why is getting a vehicle painted so expensive? Few hours are actually spent painting. The majority of the time is devoted to prepping, and with paint shops charging between $50-$70 an hour, things can quickly add up. There is no mystery to prepping a vehicle, but it involves many hours of labor and must be done properly to ensure a good-looking paint job. Paint prep is tedious, unglamorous work, but it's not difficult. This means that you can save a lot of money by doing the prep work yourself and then having a shop spray the paint for you. If you want to save even more money, try spraying the paint yourself.

What’s involved in getting a vehicle ready for paint? Most of your time will be spent sanding and removing rust and dents. For the best results, the body must be perfectly straight and free of such imperfections. This takes a lot of time and patience, and some skill as well. The sidebars listed below should give you an idea of whether or not you have what it takes to paint your own vehicle. Give ’em a click and see what gives.

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